Until this year, I would squirm at the thought of networking. The cringey feeling of entering a room not knowing anyone, trying to join a conversation or worse start one would make me feel physically sick.
There is also the added pressure of standing up and talking for a minute about your business at some events and people would actually time you…. Really? I mean why put yourself through that right? You should, you really should, and here’s why.
The first ever event I went to I was VERY late, a bit on purpose as I didn’t want to talk to people and a bit by accident as I took no instructions of how to get there. I went to the wrong place completely and very nearly didn’t go in as I was so late, but I got into shark mode and went for it. As I got in, I was warmly welcomed and asked to introduce myself and my business. I bumbled my way through, I have no idea what I said to this day, and sat back down shaking all over. However someone wanted to meet with me afterwards to discuss helping with their Marketing, so it couldn’t have been too bad, right?
It really made me think. If I can get to an event late, unprepared, bumble and still gain contacts imagine what I can do if I actually prepped, and got used to these events! With that, I signed up to as many events as I could and sussed out the best ones that suited my business and found a few I loved. But most of which were monthly and I wanted to do this more frequently.
So, I looked around and found a post on Facebook about a BNI Meeting at 9.30 on a Friday. Perfect timing but it was BNI! I had heard rumours about this BNI, it was like a cult, the pressure was intense and, to put simply, you wouldn’t get out of there alive! But the timing was perfect….and it was weekly……oh god though, what if they made me chant?
I bit the bullet and went, a lovely lady called Michelle met me at the door and introduced me to people in the room and everyone was bloody lovely. I was expecting a full on ‘clicky’ room with me in the corner being given evils by the BNI Posy. The meeting was in fact very funny, no cult vibe that I was expecting and there was banter? Actual banter at a BNI meeting? People having fun? When do we chant?
After the meeting I felt really motivated. If I’m being honest I was expecting a full-on sales pitch and being locked in a room until I signed up. How wrong was I! The statement I remember clearly was ‘BNI isn’t for everyone, if it’s not for you we understand that, who wants a coffee?’
I have to say I instantly fell for the people in the room. It was funny, motivating and I left the place totally buzzing. Needless to say, I signed up and haven’t looked back since. The team are insanely supportive and I feel like I’m not on my own in business anymore. You need that in business and you need to network to find a group that works like this for you.
The thing that really got me about my network was what happened this weekend. One member was having an issue, struggling to resolve it, so asked for help. On a Sunday, her working day but most people’s day off right? Not this group. There were so many texts and phone calls from the team, so much so by the time I contacted her she had already physically spoken with 3 people, and had offers of help by most of the team. That right there was when I knew I had made the right decision to join.
My message to you here is to go out, network, don’t be scared because everyone else is feeling the same. My stomach still twitches when I stand up and talk, but it works! People buy from people, they want get to know you and gain trust in you before they buy your products or service. The more often you can meet with each other the quicker that trust can be built and recommendations/purchases can be made. Give every networking event a go. Even the ones that you think, or have been told, you will hate. Don’t knock it until you have tried it. It may just be the one you actually love!